Gunning Daily News

10 Tips to Conserve Water

June 30, 2011 1:23 pm

Soon, summer will be on its way out and the rains may even slow. Still, it's more important than ever to conserve water. From checking the kitchen faucet to watching your laundry loads, there's plenty we can all do to save water.

Here are some tips from Pennsylvania American Water on how you can conserve water and reduce the environmental impact of water consumption both indoors and outside the home:

1. Water your lawn only when it needs it. An easy test to tell if your lawn needs water is to simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it's time to water. (An added benefit of watering less often is that fewer, deep-soaking waterings encourage deep root growth and stronger turf.)

2. Water in the early morning. As much as 30 percent of water can be lost to evaporation by watering during midday.

3. Set your lawn mower one notch higher to make your lawn more drought-tolerant.

4. Use drip irrigation hoses to water plants, and water in the early morning or evening.

5. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your sidewalk, driveway, or patio.

6. Forego the hose and wash your car with a bucket and sponge instead. According to EPA WaterSense, a hose left running can waste as much as six gallons per minute while a bucket and sponge uses only a few gallons to do the job.

7. Keep a bottle of cold tap water in the refrigerator. You'll avoid the cost and environmental impact of bottled water and you'll have cold water available in the summer without running the faucet.

8. Run dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are full. If you have a water-saver cycle, use it.

9. Adjust the water level of your clothes washer, so that it matches your load size.

10. Regularly check your toilet, faucets and pipes for leaks and have them fixed promptly. An easy test for toilet leaks from EPA WaterSense: Place a drop of food coloring in the tank. If the color tints the water in the bowl without flushing, there's a leak. Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.

Summer Landscaping Design Ideas: 6 Popular Garden Styles Revealed

June 30, 2011 1:23 pm

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes, and the landscaping design ideas that go into them are truly one-of-a-kind. Online landscaping design resource, landscapingNetwork.com, reveals today’s top six leading garden styles from across the country. Offering a multitude of design ideas, consumers can easily gain inspiration for new summer garden projects. 

Gardens at home have long been a staple for homeowners who want to enjoy the outdoors by creating inviting and relaxing spaces perfect for reading the morning paper or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. They are often a representation of self, and take on a lot of character. 

These are today’s most popular garden styles that seem to be popping up in yards across the country:
1. Modern gardens that include contemporary paving and furniture.
2. Japanese gardens designed for peaceful contemplation.
3. Mexican gardens that center around socialization and entertaining.
4. English cottage gardens providing a cozy, romantic atmosphere.
5. Desert gardens built for functionality and low maintenance.
6. Tropical gardens lush with tropical plants and bold colors. 

Whatever the style may be, these gardens offer consumers a multitude of design ideas and options for creating the perfect garden at home. The rules of design are open for interpretation. 

For more information on garden styles and design, please visit PacificHorticulture.org.

Wood Floor or Carpet?

June 30, 2011 1:23 pm

Six Factors Can Determine Your Choice

Contrary to what many homeowners believe at the outset, there may be scant difference in the price of installing hardwood flooring versus carpeting.

“Carpeting—unless you choose the most expensive high-end product—will generally cost less than hardwood flooring,” says home store flooring consultant Leonard Rangle. “But wood floors can also vary widely in price, so if cost is your primary consideration, be sure to get estimates on installing hardwood and carpeting of equal quality.”

Other factors should be taken into consideration before making your final choice, notes Rangle, who suggests weighing these six factors before making your final choice: 

• Noise – Carpet is quiet, while wood flooring absorbs no sound at all. If you have young children, or if TV and/or music is a constant in your home, carpeting may be the better choice.
• Warmth – Carpeting is warmer to walk on, especially in colder climates. If you live in a warm climate, you may appreciate the coolness of wood flooring under your feet.
• Liquid spills – Liquids may stain carpet, although today’s cleaning products do a good job of minimizing damage. But a build-up of dampness can lead to underlying mold or mildew. Wood is resistant to stains and absorption, although prolonged exposure to moisture can cause discoloration or warping.
• Cleaning – Carpeting needs to be regularly vacuumed and shampooed, and even then, dust particles can penetrate under the weave. Hardwood floors are easily cleaned with vacuuming and a damp mop.
• Lifecycle – Carpeting can be expected to last 10 to 15 years depending upon wear and maintenance. Wood flooring, barring water damage, can be expected to last a lifetime.
• Health factors – Hardwood flooring is a better option if there are allergies in your family. Carpets, in addition to trapping dust particles, emit gases—like the ones you smell when you enter a carpet store—for much of the life of the carpet.

Question of the Day

June 30, 2011 12:53 pm

Q: What is a wraparound loan?

A: Also called an all-inclusive mortgage, it is where a new home loan is placed in a subordinate or secondary position to the original mortgage and the new loan includes the unpaid balance of the first.

The wraparound allows the buyer to purchase a home without having to qualify for a loan or pay closing costs. The contract is made between the buyer and seller with the seller remaining on the original mortgage and title. The buyer pays the seller a fixed monthly amount and the seller uses part of this money towards the existing loan.

The seller benefits by offering the buyer a loan at a higher interest rate than the existing mortgage, and the lender profits from the difference in interest in the two loans.

Wraparounds are not for novices and cannot be used when there is a legally enforceable "due on sale" clause in the first mortgage.

Consult an attorney if you are considering this type of financing.


Word of the Day

June 30, 2011 12:53 pm

Bylaws. Rules and regulations that govern how a homeowners’ association will be run.

Dad, the Burgers Are Burning…And So Is the House!

June 30, 2011 12:53 pm

July is National Grilling Month but also the Peak Month for Grilling Fires 

While Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day see the most cooking related smoke and fire claims, the 4th of July isn’t far behind. According to State Farm claims data, nearly 3,000 fire and smoke related claims happen in the month of July. 

To help ensure your grilling plans don’t go up in flames, State Farm offers these tips: 

Location, Location, Location
• Move your grill away from flammable objects, including the house. Nearly 30 percent of home grilling fires start on a balcony or open patio.
Flame On
• Only use charcoal starter fluid to start a charcoal grill. Never use lighter fluid or any other fire accelerant on an open flame. Gasoline or lighter fluid is a factor in almost one-quarter of the charcoal grill burns seen in emergency rooms. 

Adult Supervision Required
• Never leave the grill unattended when cooking. Radiating heat from the grill and grease flare-ups can lead to a home fire very quickly if a grill is left unsupervised. 

In the Zone
• Keep kids and pets away from a hot grill. Maintain a safe zone of at least three feet around the grilling area to prevent children or pets from touching a hot grill. 

Keep It Clean
• Clean and maintain your grill. Check the valves and hoses for cracks or leaks. Leaks or hose breaks are the leading factor contributing to gas-fueled grill fires. 

Put It Out
• Properly extinguish a charcoal grill by closing the grill lid. This will smother the fire by depriving it of oxygen. When the briquettes have cooled down, transfer them into a metal container with long tongs or immerse them in water. Warm charcoal can easily re-ignite and start a fire while your family is away or asleep. 

For more information about cooking fire safety, visit the State Farm Learning Center at http://learningcenter.statefarm.com/.

Florida Realtors® Advises Homeowners to Take Summertime Safety Precautions

June 30, 2011 12:53 pm

Many families across Florida and the rest of the nation will spend the Fourth of July holiday away from home, basking on beautiful beaches, traveling to see relatives or maybe just visiting friends for a backyard barbecue.

To fully enjoy those activities and other summertime pursuits spent away from home, Florida Realtors® suggests that homeowners take precautions to safeguard their residences when they're not around. Crime rates across the country often start to peak as temperatures rise during warm weather months— the same time that many families leave their homes unoccupied and unprotected.

"A home is the biggest financial investment that most people will make in their lifetimes, but it is also the place where they raise their families, build memories and share their dreams for the future," says Florida Realtors® 2011 President Patricia Fitzgerald, manager/broker-associate with Illustrated Properties in Hobe Sound and Mariner Sands Country Club in Stuart. "It just makes sense to take steps to protect something so priceless."

Homeowners can take these simple precautions to make their homes less of a target for criminals:

No "Home Alone": Before leaving your home during the day, make it look as if someone is still at home by using timers on lights in various rooms. Even though daylight hours are longer during the summer, it may still get dark faster than you expect or you may return home later than anticipated, and taking this step ensures that your home appears occupied at all times. 

No Open Door Policy: Ensure that all doors leading to the home and garage are locked, even when leaving for short periods of time. The typical burglary takes less than five minutes, and unlocked doors, combined with an empty home, put out the "welcome mat" for crime. 

Someone to Watch over Me: Be landscape smart. Shrubbery and other plants can grow very rapidly during the warm, wet summer months, so keep them trimmed to allow your neighbors to keep an eye on your home. Also, an unkempt yard could be viewed as a sign of an empty home to a burglar. 

A Key Reminder: When leaving home, take your house keys along or leave a spare set with a trusted neighbor. Never leave a key under a welcome mat, in a mailbox or other hiding spots—most burglars know where to look. 

Crime Doesn't Take a Vacation: If you're planning to be away from home on vacation for more than a day or two, ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway and pick up your mail and newspapers—or be sure to make arrangements to cancel the paper and hold the mail. Disable your garage door opener and manually lock it from the inside, and don't forget to check that the door leading from the garage to the home is locked, too.

Florida Realtors®, formerly known as the Florida Association of Realtors®, serves as the voice for real estate in Florida. Florida Realtors® Media Center website is available at http://media.floridarealtors.org.

10 Must-Dos for Hiring a Reputable Home Improvement Contractor

June 30, 2011 12:53 pm

It's that time of year, when homeowners feel the itch to scratch things off the home improvement to-do list. Handyman Connection, a leading North American network of home repair and remodeling contractors, recently released guidelines to help people avoid the pitfalls of finding and hiring a contractor for home improvement projects. 

"Hiring a contractor to work around the house means inviting relative strangers into your home for extended periods of time," says Dan Sage of Handyman Connection. "You want to have peace of mind about who you hire." 

How do you make sure your handyman is reliable and trustworthy? Follow these tips for hiring the right home improvement contractor: 

1. Go with local. Make sure you deal with people who actually live and work in your area. If you're looking online, some websites do a good job of appearing to be local when they're really not. Do your homework and hire local contractors, or national contracting companies with local offices.
2. Get it in writing. Some contractors will give you verbal estimates, or scrawl notes on a paper that doesn't identify who will do the work. Insist on written estimates on company letterhead.
3. Ask for a written guarantee. Like the estimate, the guarantee is something you'll want to get in writing. Do the contractors stand behind their work? If they do, for how long? A good rule of thumb is a guarantee of workmanship quality for a year.
4. Do they insist on cash? Don't buy it. If a contractor only accepts cash payment, keep looking. You want contractors you can trust to do business above-board.
5. Check out contractors' licenses and registrations. Make sure all licensing and registration is valid and up-to-date. If they're not, the contractor is either illegal or just plain sloppy—not the kind of people you want doing your home improvement projects.
6. See if you're offered a business card. Did the contractor offer you a legitimate business card? If they're the genuine thing, they will. Besides the typical contact information, look for the license number printed on the card.
7. Make sure contractors are insured. Get proof that contractors have third-party injury and property insurance. You just want to make sure that if something happens you're covered.
8. Find out if they're bonded. Reject contractors and related trades people who aren't bonded. Bonding protects you from being held financially or legally responsible for accidents.
9. Look for appropriate memberships. Make sure the contractor is registered with the Better Business Bureau. Also get proof that contractors are members of local Home Builders Associations or Chambers of Commerce.
10. Ask for references. Be concerned if contractors can't provide references from previous customers—there may be a reason.

Planning to Sell?

June 30, 2011 12:53 pm

Seven Features That Can Devalue Your Home 

If you are planning to sell your home in today’s market, you need to be realistic about its retail value. That means casting a critical eye, not just on your home’s condition, but even on factors that are beyond your control—such as the condition of neighboring homes, and the desirability of the area.
Says award-winning California REALTOR® Ellen Parker, “there are some issues that can devalue your home, or scare away potential buyers, even if your home appears to be an otherwise outstanding property.” 

Because homes often decline in value the longer they are on the market, Parker suggests considering these seven factors before setting a price and listing your home for sale: 

• Location, location, location—This can mean accessibility, and proximity to schools and services, as well as visual appeal of the area. Too many cell phone towers and power lines, and even being too close to an airport or a highway, can be considered eyesores or annoyances.
• Poor renovations—Poorly done renovations or unusual paint colors can be a turn-off to many buyers. Be sure additions and renovations are complete and choose standard colors if repainting.
• Unusual customization—A garage that’s been turned into a home gym, or a makeshift greenhouse in the backyard, may suit your needs, but not necessarily those of potential buyers.
• Poor curb appeal—First appearance is important, so be sure the exterior paint looks fresh, the front lawn is mowed and weeded, and free of bikes, toys or other equipment.
• Pets run amok—Puppy-stained carpeting and/or strong pet odors, like a litter box gone unattended too long, can turn off even the most devoted pet lovers.
• Run-down neighborhood—Neighborhoods may change over time, but if yours has gone from desirable to dodgy, take that into pricing consideration.
• Foreclosure fever—If your neighborhood is known for frequency of foreclosures, it may be a factor you can’t control, but potential buyers may be dubious about falling home values or surrounding homes falling into disrepair.


10 Reasons Not to “Top†Your Trees

June 30, 2011 12:53 pm

In case you missed it, the U. S. Forest Service says residential trees can raise the value of a lot compared to the same lot without trees by as much as 20 percent.

On average, trees add between 5 and 7 percent to the value of a residential lot— and any property with trees invariably sells faster, too.

In this segment, we’ll take a look at a tree pruning practice that can actually reverse the benefits of having trees—ironically, this practice called “topping,” can decrease your property’s resale value!

My friends at the Tree Foundation of Kern, California (urbanforest.org) identify topping as the practice of cutting back large diameter branches of a mature tree to stubs. Unfortunately, many people believe topping is a proper way to prune trees, and the destructive practice is prevalent in some communities.

Check out these 10 Good Reasons Not to “Top”:
1. No Shade! Topping harvests the leaf crop that gives us the comfort of shade in our arid climate.
2. Starvation - Topping removes so much of the tree’s leafy crown that it reduces the ability to sustain life.
3. Shock - Once the leafy crown is removed, bark is exposed to direct sunlight and can cause scalding and death.
4. Insects and disease - Topped branches can’t isolate the wound. The exposed ends provide entry to insects and fungus.
5. Weak limbs - New growth from topped branches is weakly attached and more liable to break in a storm.
6. Rapid new growth - Topping has the opposite of its intended effect. New branches are more numerous and often grow taller than before.
7. Death - Some species can’t tolerate major branch loss and survive.
8. Butt ugly - A topped tree is a disfigured tree. It will never regain its grace and character.
9. Hidden Costs - Lower property values, higher energy costs, removal and replacement in the event of death or disease, corrective pruning to restore the canopy, degraded air quality.
10. Degraded wildlife habitat - Birds can’t nest in topped trees.

The folks in Kern advise anyone looking to promote good tree maintenance to consult an arborist member of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the National Arborist Association (NAA) or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA).